Campus & Community

Three Stevens Students Selected for Governor’s STEM Scholars 2024 Class

The Governor’s STEM Scholars (GSS) selected three Stevens undergraduates to be among the 129 New Jersey students in its 2023-2024 class. First-year student Mircea Florescu and second-year students Jacob Normand and Isabela Simpson were chosen from a pool of nearly 1,000 high school and college-level applicants from across the state to participate in the program.

Florescu, Normand, Simpson and the other GSS receive leadership training and lead small teams of high school students working on engineering design research projects aimed at benefiting local communities. This year’s projects are inspired by a selection of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: Goal 3, good health and wellbeing; Goal 7, affordable and clean energy; and Goal 11, sustainable cities and communities. Teams will present their work to a panel of GSS’s industry partners in May for a chance to win the program’s excellence in research award and attend the Edison Patent Awards, an annual gala celebrating New Jersey inventors.

Portrait of Mircea FlorescuMircea FlorescuWhile the projects are still in their early stages, the Stevens scholars say the opportunity to step into a STEM leadership role has already been valuable. “It’s like you’re the director — you see these people, their passions, their capabilities, what they excel in [now] and what they could excel in [in the future],” says Florescu, a chemical engineering major with a background in theater. “You get to be the one to tell them, ‘You’re more capable than you can possibly imagine.’”

Portrait of Isabela SimpsonIsabela SimpsonSimpson, a chemical engineering major who previously participated in GSS in high school, notes a shift toward increased collaboration between team leads and younger students this year. Whereas in the past, team leads have chosen the research topic, “the leads and high school students are now working together as a team not only to come up with the problem we want to solve but also to work together toward a solution,” she explains.

Portrait of Jacob NormandJacob Normand

Normand, a mechanical engineering major who works in Stevens’ MakerSpace, worked with GSS to form a team of scholars local to Hudson County so that they can create robotics prototypes together on campus. “As team lead, I’m the person behind the scenes orchestrating things, but by the end, I want the high school students to be the ones presenting and feeling a sense of accomplishment,” he says. “I’m excited to engage with these students to get them really excited about STEM, but also how they can use STEM to help people.”

Now hosting its 10th class, GSS began in 2012 as a public-private partnership between the Research & Development Council of New Jersey, The Office of the Governor, The New Jersey Department of Education and public and private research institutions dedicated to strengthening New Jersey’s STEM talent pipeline by keeping high-achieving students in state for college and beyond. “We wanted to create a program that showcased all that New Jersey has to offer within the STEM ecosystem — the types of opportunities that exist at our higher education institutions ... and within organizations and companies in New Jersey,” says Alise Roderer, director of GSS.

An advisory council of STEM professionals and GSS alumni review applications each summer, seeking a diverse group of students with a high GPA and passion for STEM to join their incoming class. Among these qualified applicants, the council also looks to engage students who have not had an opportunity to participate in STEM programming at their high schools or in their communities.

Scholars participate in a variety of learning opportunities throughout the programmatic year, including conferences at New Jersey colleges and universities, themed around STEM in government, industry and academia. Field trips and fireside chats give students the opportunity to visit and network with professionals at major New Jersey companies, including Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Kenvue, Panasonic, PSEG, Stryker and United Airlines.

“Through the Governor’s STEM Scholars, New Jersey STEM students are able to learn from and engage with some of the state’s top STEM and R&D professionals, enhancing the students’ knowledge and understanding of career opportunities and introducing them to the STEM economy in New Jersey,” says Roderer. “With this career knowledge and exposure, we are setting these high school and college students on a path to achieve excellence in jobs of the future.”